Adult colouring craze poses headache for crayon makers

Colouring books for grown-ups may be the new lifestyle craze, promising ways to combat stress, unleash our creative spirit and generally take time out from our increasingly tech-frazzled, gadget-obsessed lives.

See Full Article

But for the makers of crayons and colour pencils, the trend also poses a fundamental strategic question: is the current boom in demand just a passing fad or is it a new sustainable trend?

"I dream about crayons at night," says Andreas Martin, who manages a factory of the manufacturer Staedtler in Nuremberg, southern Germany.

Staedtler is a small family-run firm employing a workforce of around 2,000 and has seen demand for some of its coloured pencils explode, more or less overnight.

"These are models we've been making for years and demand always chugged along unspectacularly," Martin said.

"But then all of a sudden, we weren't able to manufacture enough. It's incredible."

Just behind him, a machine spits out yellow ink pens at a rate of around 6,000 per hour. Another next to it is currently programmed to produce orange ones.

On the next floor down, finished crayons in a kaleidoscope of different colours are packed into boxes of 20 or 36 for shipping to the United States, Britain or South Korea.

Those are the countries at the centre of the current adult colouring craze, said Staedtler chief, Axel Marx.

In the USA, nine colouring books are currently among the top 20 best-selling products on Amazon.

A slice of the cake

Gradually "we're seeing a similar development in European countries, too," said Horst Brinkmann, head of marketing and sales at rival Stabilo Schwan, which makes fluorescent marker pens and coloured pencils as well.

All the players in the sector are keen to get a slice of the cake. Stabilo has launched a set of crayons and book with spring motifs. Swiss upmarket maker Caran d'Ache has published its own colouring book of Alpine scenes.

Without revealing any figures, Brinkmann said Stabilo's sales of crayons had risen by more than 10 percent while the colouring craze enabled Staedtler to lift its sales by 14 percent last year to 322 million euros ($350 million).

"That's remarkable, in this age of digitalisation," said Marx.

But the hype also constitutes something of a headache for factory chief Martin.

"No-one knows how long it will last," he admits.

"We need to strike a balance", so as to know much to sensibly invest to be able to ride the wave, while still keeping in mind that the trend could vanish as quickly as it started.

"At the moment, we're making use of adjustable working hours," adding shifts, say, at night or on Saturday mornings. In addition to the 350 regular employees, the factory had taken on around 30 temporary workers.

But ultimately, the decision is whether to invest the 300,000 euros needed for a new machine.

Fundamental trend?

Staedtler is ready to stump up the cash, with the hope that "if the market falls again, we can use the machines for different types of products," Martin said.

But rival makers are betting on the durability of the new trend.

At Caran d'Ache, "we have invested in production equipment and extended working hours," said president Carole Hubscher.

The company sets great store by being a "Swiss Made" brand and "there is no question of relocating to boost production," she said.

Hubscher is convinced that writing and drawing "won't disappear."

And "our growth targets are not solely built on trends," she argued.

Stabilo's Brinkmann insisted that adult colouring "is part of a fundamental and universal trend towards slowing down."

Nevertheless, "it's important to continue to innovate in this area" to maintain market momentum, he said, pointing to the new "fashion within a fashion" of "Zentangling" or drawing images using structured patterns.

Staedtler chief Marx is more fatalistic, saying that a trend such as colouring is not predictable.

"But we're keeping our fingers crossed that it'll continue," he said.



Advertisements

Latest Economic News

  • Liberals ask President Trump to approve Keystone XL pipeline

    Economic CTV News
    Canada’s natural resources minister says that he hopes the new U.S. administration will allow the Keystone XL pipeline quashed by Barack Obama to proceed, noting that all Canadian regulatory approvals are in place. Jim Carr spoke to CTV’s Power Play from Washington, D.C. Source
  • Apple depicts Qualcomm as a shady monopolist in US$1B lawsuit

    Economic CTV News
    SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple is suing mobile chip maker Qualcomm for $1 billion in a patent fight pitting the iPhone maker against one of its major suppliers. The 100-page complaint filed Friday in a San Diego federal court depicts Qualcomm as a greedy monopolist abusing its power in a key segment of the mobile chip market to extort royalties for iPhone innovations that have nothing to do with Qualcomm's technology. Source
  • Trump's 'America first' tone worries head of Canadian oil and gas industry group

    Economic CTV News
    Trump takes charge: Sworn in as 45th president of the U.S.A. Source
  • Obama administration urges Canada to reverse Super Bowl ad decision

    Economic CTV News
    OTTAWA - In one of its final communications with Canada, the outgoing Obama administration is engaging in pigskin politics: asking the Trudeau government to overturn a regulation affecting ads during the Super Bowl. The U.S. Source
  • Oil and stock prices higher as Donald Trump sworn in

    Economic CBC News
    Stock markets responded to the first day of the Trump Administration in a largely positive way, with the Dow Jones, the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 all higher on the day of his swearing in. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up by nearly 100 points to 19,829 just minutes before the new president formally acceded to the position. Source
  • Stocks higher as Donald Trump lays out glimpse of future economic policies

    Economic CBC News
    Stock markets responded to the first day of the Trump Administration in a largely positive way, with the Dow Jones, the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 all higher on the day of his swearing in. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up by nearly 100 points to 19,829 just minutes before the new president formally acceded to the position. Source
  • Stocks close higher as Donald Trump lays out glimpse of future economic policies

    Economic CBC News
    Stock markets responded to the first day of the Trump Administration in a largely positive way, with the Dow Jones, the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 all higher on the day of his swearing in. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up by nearly 100 points to 19,829 just minutes before the new president formally acceded to the position. Source
  • Navdeep Bains defends open borders for global trade in Davos speech

    Economic CBC News
    Automakers on both sides of the border fear the potential negative effects of a Donald Trump presidency, Canada's economic development minister said Thursday as he met with international business and political leaders in Switzerland. Navdeep Bains said he's been having nervous conversations with concerned automakers, both at the recent auto show in Detroit and during his current visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos. Source
  • Will Trump end globalization? The doubt haunts Davos' elite

    Economic CTV News
    DAVOS, Switzerland -- It's been impossible to escape the shadow of Donald Trump at this year's gathering of the business elites at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Uncertainty over what Trump will do once he takes office Friday and whether his presidency will mark the end of globalization dominated discussions all week at this event, which more than any has become synonymous with international business. Source
  • Sears, N.B. partner for a 2nd new business centre expected to create 360 jobs

    Economic CTV News
    TORONTO -- The New Brunswick government and Sears Canada Inc. announced their second partnership this week to open a business centre in the province with the help of millions of dollars of government funding. The provincial government is providing Sears (TSX:SCC) with about $5.2 million of funding to open its second new business centre in the province. Source